Hamilton City Council will tackle climate change with urgency, but has refused to declare an emergency after it was knocked back by a full council meeting.

The council passed a motion 9-4 to develop a climate change action plan for the city.
That was after the council had earlier voted against an amendment by councillor Paula Southgate to declare a climate change emergency.

The call to declare a climate emergency came from Hamilton high school students whose request was part of a nationwide movement for local councils and Government to declare a climate change emergency. Auckland City Council, Environment Canterbury, Christchurch City Council and Nelson City Council all made climate emergency declarations in May.

Across the globe hundreds of local governments have declared emergencies, including at least 17 in Australia, 96 in the United Kingdom, 382 in Canada, and 16 in the United States.

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Councillors Leo Tooman, Garry Mallett, James Casson were against declaring a climate urgency, however Ryan Hamilton did not outright deny climate change action was necessary, saying that the motion was symbolic, and he wanted to take action.'

"We are doing stuff, we are launching a waste minimisation strategy that will be creating more emergencies on its own," Mr Hamilton said.

"I agree we need to run cleaner energy systems so lets continue to do that with focus regardless of whether this symbolic declaration of emergency is signalled or not."

Councillor Garry Mallett said the climate will always change and he was not convinced humans were causing environmental change.

"We have had for the last 30 years of so called experts saying that the human race would be finished by now and I don't know how long these people can keep up their creditability," Mr Mallett said. "I don't think we have the knowledge or expertise to deal with this right now."

Councillor James Casson said that climate change was cyclic and that CO2 is not a bad thing.

"If CO2 levels dropped to zero that would be a huge problem for us," Mr Casson said.

Despite the four against, council passed the motion to develop a climate plan, although HCC has previously developed a climate change plan. In 2004 it resolved to participate in the Communities for Climate Protection-New Zealand Programme.

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It followed the 1992 Rio Earth Summit (Cities for Sustainable Development) with Hamilton one of the first local governments in New Zealand to join the international programme.

That 2004 plan stated "climate change or global warming refers to the progressive gradual rise of the Earth's average surface temperature thought to be caused in part by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere which trap some of the heat the earth radiates back into space".

"Concentrations of these atmospheric gases remained approximately constant for thousands of years.

"The sharp increase reported in concentrations of greenhouse gases is due to human activities, especially during the last century."

Back then, HCC identified several aspects of running the city, including transport, that could help combat climate change.

The council ran a trial, where "two bicycles were added to the fleet pool to enable council to reduce vehicle usage for short trips and to lead by example. To be useful for business meeting, these bikes were equipped with parcel carriers to hold materials such as documents for meetings".

Since then the council has made electric scooters and bikes available to staff for work trips, with bus travel free at all times for people with disabilities, and free on weekends for people 18 and under.

The council also has a new kerbside collection service starting next year which will introduce three new bins to residents, while also collecting more recyclables.